75-year pilgrimage: Scandinavians who were seeking church built Our Savior’s
Scandinavians seeking church built Our Savior’s
NEW ULM — On Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) gathered in front of The Grand Center for Arts and Culture to start a mini-pilgrimage honoring the congregation’s 75-year history.
In March 1947, six families met with a seminary student at the Grand Hotel to discuss the creation of a Scandinavian Lutheran Church.
In 1947, it was a challenge for New Ulm citizens of Scandinavian ancestry to find a Lutheran church where they felt at home.
Since New Ulm was settled by German immigrants, the German language continued to dominate worship services. Members of Swan Lake and Hanska Lutheran churches helped survey to determine if another church was needed. Swan Lake Seminary student Peter Anderson served as the leader.
In the beginning, it was not clear if the church would last. Redeemer Lutheran was also starting around the same time and no one was certain if there was enough interest for either church to last, but early members had faith.
From The Grand, church members traveled to 127 N. Minnesota St. in front of the Guten Tag Haus. However, 75 years ago the Guten Tag Haus was known as the Silver Latch Cafe. On March 23, 1947, it held the first regular worship service and Sunday School for OSLC. It cost $2 to rent the space in Silver Latch Cafe on a Sunday.
The first official act of OSLC was the baptism of John L. Anderson. Anderson wrote the book “Scandinavian Humor and Other Myths.”
A few months later, the church would formally adopt the name “Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of New Ulm” on June 8, 1947.
From the Guten Tag Haus, the congregation traveled to the city’s water plant on Third North Street. In the fall of 1947, the congregation had outgrown the Silver Latch and began renting space at the filtration plant. Of all the worship sites of OSLC, the water plant is the only one to maintain its original purpose.
In 2022, OSLC’s congregation walks west on 3rd North until they reach Broadway, the location of the former Creamery Hall. Today, this is the location of Broadway Haus.
The hall created a unique problem for OSLC. The creamery was used as a dance hall on Saturday nights. This meant members had to clean up the space before Sunday morning church services.
By the time OSLC’s moved into Creamery Hall on Broadway, the church had 33 students enrolled in Sunday School. From the beginning OSLC had a strong emphasis on youth education; a tradition that continues. It did not take long to outgrow the creamery, but the next move was a building of their own.
From N. Broadway and 3rd North, OSLC’s present-day congregation traveled five blocks to the north and gathered near the New Ulm Fire Department’s garage doors–careful not to block the driveway in case of a fire call.
It was at 8th North and Minnesota that on June 26, 1949, the cornerstone for Our Savior’s first church was placed. By Dec. 18, 1949, a white frame building was finished and worship services began. That evening the Sunday School held an evening Christmas program.
It took two years, but OSLC had its own building. The problem was it did not have money for pews and other items. Families bought their own pews from a Lafayette church.
OSLC grew in size through the 1950s. Most of the time the church shared a pastor with Swan Lake, but by 1957 needed a full-time pastor. Pastor Jim Sumption became the first pastor to serve the church independent of Swan Lake.
Following the prayer at the New Ulm Fire Station, OSLC’s current congregation prepared for their final stop on the pilgrimage. Some of the members climbed into a school bus to make the final journey to 1400 S. State Street.
In 1959, OSLC again outgrew its building. The number of children in the Sunday School required three separate sessions. By the fall of 1960, there were 237 kids enrolled in Sunday School.
The land was acquired at 1400 S. State St. through donations from the Aufderheide and Salter families. Thinking ahead, the church purchased the remainder of the block to ensure that if the church continued to grow, they could expand the building rather than relocate. Construction began in the summer of 1960, and the first service was held at the location in Feb. 1961.
The first expansion occurred six years later. An education unit was added to the building to meet Sunday School demands. A church library was started in the 1970s. By 1972, the congregation reached 1,500 members. The sanctuary was remodeled and expanded to the current design, adopting semi-circular seating. Additional classrooms and offices were also built.
The church would see another major remodel in 2004, with further expansion of the sanctuary, the creation of a larger fellowship hall and more classrooms in the lower levels.
Currently, OSLC has a baptized membership of 1,666 which all began when six families met 75 years ago. The original need for a Scandinavian church has faded, but people are continually drawn to OSLC over seven decades later.
The 75th-anniversary committee feels the OSLC is a welcoming church since the beginning.
“That’s been a significant theme for us,” Pastor Kathleen Ulland-Klinkner said. “People feel welcome, whether it’s when they walk in the door or at holy communion. We’re very open.”
Maxine Remme said the church’s openness is evidenced by how it kept growing over 75 years.
The committee credited OSLC’s women’s organization for being inside and outside the church. They have raised a lot of money for worthy causes.
The church always had a strong youth ministry since its founding.
“Our children and youth learn here, but they have traveled all over the United States on mission trips,” Ulland-Klinkner said. “We do so much for building a community here. We like to go outside our doors and help others.”
The congregation’s musical history has proven to be a draw. There are choirs for kindergarten and up. There are currently 100 children in the choir program.
The church is adapting to the times. During the COVID pandemic, they moved services online for social distancing. Coming out of the pandemic, the church still has its online presence on Facebook.
In recent years, OSLC has served as the Ward 4 polling place during the election.
“Part of our calling is to be good citizens, and part of that is voting,” Ulland-Klinkner
On Sept. 18 OSLC’s worship service will focus on music and how God shaped them.
The 75th celebration is Sept. 25 with a meal to follow. Rev. Jen Nagel will be the pastor for the service. She grew up in the congregation. Several formal pastors will also attend and give short presentations during the service.
The meal is Scandinavian themed with Swedish meatballs, mash potatoes, lefse and special treats.